Open your mind and your dog will follow.
Or so predicts artist/architect/ industrial arts teacher Matthew Craig, one of the Routt County residents invited to design and build doghouses as part of a Steamboat Springs Arts Council fund-raiser.
The resulting series of dog dwellings blurs the line between canine comfort and outdoor sculpture.
Craig titled his piece "Bau-Wau Haus," a play on words and reference to the Bauhaus design movement.
Bauhaus was an influential German school of art and design that taught simple forms and unadorned functionalism. Bauhaus architects used the techniques and materials employed in industrial fabrication, such as steel, concrete, chrome and glass.
Craig's doghouse is for the trendy, modern dog. Its stern and simple lines are made by a concrete floor and ceiling joined by steel beams. The walls, which Craig could not afford to build, will be made of Plexiglas.
Craig's involvement in the doghouse project began with a phone call to his industrial arts classroom at Steamboat Springs High School. Arts Council executive director Nancy Kramer asked Craig to pitch the idea to his class.
"I wanted to join them in the project and also to put them to shame (with my own design)," Craig said. "This (doghouse) is really an experiment. I'm really into modern architecture right now."
The "Bau-Wau Haus" is based on the Farnsworth House, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Craig said. The Farnsworth House is a transparent glass and steel structure in the plains of Illinois. It is designed to be warm in winter and cool in summer.
Ideally, Craig's imitation would be home to a very large dog.
"The house would be located in a shady area, maybe an aspen grove," Craig said. "It will stay cool all day for the dog with an active lifestyle. All the while, the dog can enjoy the views around his home because of the lack of closure."
This first house was a prototype, Craig said. He took recycled glass from Connell Resources to lighten the concrete, but the structure still weighs an estimated 800 pounds. "This house is really different," Craig said. "And I think that's what this is about. This is a good opportunity for people to build miniature houses that may not meet code in Steamboat Springs."
Don Searls, who designed and built a doghouse called "Notre Dawg Cathedrool," believes that people who come to view the houses should not get caught up in them as homes for dogs.
"Dogs may not even like them," he said. "But these are more than doghouses. They are yard sculptures."
Searls' "Cathedrool" started with a pile of bike parts that he was given by his son-in-law, Orange Peel Bicycle owner Brock Webster. In Searls' mind, the sprockets and chain rings began to look like windows that could be filled with (plastic) stained glass. The idea of a cathedral quickly followed the stained-glass concept.
Searls framed his doghouse just as he would a conventional house, he said. It is a perfect caricature of Notre Dame in Paris, complete with asp.
"Like any caricature, I just focused on the most pronounced features," he said.
Above the asp and between the stained-glass windows, Searls added "muttresses," complete with a burned-in dog design.
"The whole thing is meant to be entertainment," Searls said. "And I hope it rewards the Arts Council."
Searls said that he didn't keep track of the hours he put into the "Cathedrool" construction because he was building it for a good cause. His wife is a docent at the Depot and his daughter shows her work regularly in Arts Council-sponsored shows.
"I tell everyone that I think Steamboat is right on the cusp of becoming a significant arts community," he said. "They have been forming the foundation for years."
As many as eight doghouses will be on display for the first time this weekend at Art in the Park. They will be displayed in West Lincoln Park on Saturday and Sunday, among 125 artisans and food booths.
Art in the Park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The weekend will also feature local bands and a performance by Steamboat's Summer Art Immersion for Kids Program. Admission to the fair is free.
At the time of printing, most of the doghouse builders were scrambling to finish their pieces. Lisa Grimaldi spent Tuesday at the dump and visiting the lumber company. Her doghouse will be completed after a family scavenger hunt, she said. Her family was in town after her July 3 wedding and the group planned to go door to door asking for objects to add to the doghouse.
"We have big plans," she said. "But right now, it's just a woodpile."
She had no idea what the end result would look like, only that it would create a good memory for her family.
After Art in the Park, the doghouses will be touring around town as a collection. Their final display will be at the Beaux Arts Festival on Aug. 16